Sibling Rivalry: Multi-Pet Aggression in the Home
When you decided to get a second (or third) pet, you might have had wonderful visions of being surrounded by mounds of cuddly furballs. However, in reality, your home is plagued with fighting pets. While multi-pet aggression isn’t uncommon, it can create troublesome stress for pets and owners alike.
Despite our desire for peace, the truth is that not all dogs and cats get along with each other. Some breeds prefer to be the only pet around while others thrive in the presence of other fur buddies. A pet’s background is also integral to whether adding another pet could pose problems.
Because you love all your furry family members, learning to navigate multi-pet aggression and sibling rivalry can help create a safer, more inviting home.
Multi-Pet Aggression: Identifying Triggers
In many cases, behavioral issues among pets is often the result of one of the following:
- A lack of training
- Underlying anxiety or stress
- The introduction of a new pet too fast, too soon
Also consider whether multi-pet aggression is between two of the same species (e.g., cat fights) or between two different animals (e.g., cat-dog fights). For dogs, fighting is typically caused by one or more of the following:
- Resource guarding
- Fear response to pain or loss of vision/hearing
- Lack of socialization/training
- Misdirected aggression (e.g, another dog happens to be in the way)
Similarly, aggression between cats also stems from under-socialization at a young age. Felines are territorial and find safety and comfort in the familiar. The introduction of another cat (especially when it’s sudden) can trigger aggression.
For both cats and dogs, multi-pet aggression is exacerbated if the animals have not been spayed or neutered.
Tips to Ease Tension
Before making adjustments to your home and routine, it’s important to first rule out any external health or behavioral problems. If one pet is acting particularly guarded or aggressive, he or she may be in pain, feeling unwell, or dealing with hidden stress/fear. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have your pet examined by one of our veterinarians before proceeding.
Other tips to diminish multi-pet aggression include:
- To establish territorial boundaries, create separate areas for litter boxes, sleeping, and eating (especially for felines).
- Remain consistent in your routine and house rules; don’t favor one pet over another.
- Redirect sibling spats with distracting activities, such as challenging games or going for a walk.
- If there’s interspecies aggression, make sure your cat has a safe area to which he or she can retreat.
- Consider using baby gates as a temporary solution – particularly if your dog enjoys harassing or chasing the family cat.
When to Seek Help
If your pets continue to fight, do not wait until an injury occurs. Behavioral counseling can give you the tools and knowledge to reinforce healthy behavior and create a more peaceful home.
To learn more, please contact The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital.
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